Where does all that money really go?
Let me start this off by saying that I have always been poor. As a kid, I would gag when my parents tried to pass off powdered milk as a reasonable substitute at times when we had no grocery money and had to rely on food pantry handouts. The government cheddar cheese, as I recall, was quite good though. It was a big, dense, bright orange block of salty flavor. Spam I never grew accustomed to.
During these early years, I don’t think I fully understood what it meant to be poor and have to ask for help. I saw what was happening and knew that our food was often received from charities for free, or paid for with food stamps. I remember my mother being on the phone all the time, waiting on hold, yelling at strangers over what I now assume to have been bureaucratic issues. She wasn’t perfect, of course, but this effort was wasting her youth. It’s no wonder she was frustrated. She was a single mom with four kids living about as meager an existence as you can without being on the street.
These days, I find myself wondering how charities are still failing to help people turn their lives around. My family never escaped our cycle of poverty, and that is very much the norm, it being a cycle and all. Why haven’t we figured out how to break these cycles? Charities and other non-profits have the money, hundreds of billions of dollars in donations per year, and have people working on this who claim to care. How is it that we haven’t figured out how to use these resources effectively?
Instead of giving needy individuals $100 here and $200 there, we should be teaching people to fish, so to speak. Small grants and gifts are spent before they leave the office. When you’re poor, someone always has their hand in your pocket. Even if this weren’t the case, even if poor people weren’t already in debt, a little money won’t get them very far and next week they’ll be back and begging for more help.
I’m sure the defense of charities would be that, “No, we really don’t have the resources to help, but we’re doing the best we can with what we have.” Or, “We try to help as many as we can with a little instead of draining our resources on only a few.”